By Grace O’Connor

The past two weeks I have spent emailing and communicating with prospective interviewees and then, interviewing! Despite sending out emails to a dozen organizations, I only received a positive response from two individuals. The two interviews went smoothly, and I gathered much information that I am excited to include in my Best Practices write-up including success stories, organizational practices, and future goals.

So, why did not many people answer or offer up time for an interview?

As mentioned in previous posts, refugees –especially children— are a very vulnerable population. Due to the ongoing global pandemic, refugees in the United States have needed more time and support for distanced learning, applying for unemployment, receiving healthcare, etc. Both of my interviewees expressed more stress and newfound responsibilities because of the circumstances, as I am sure the other organizations are feeling right now. Lydia from the Catholic Youth Organization in Syracuse, NY mentioned issues with internet access, accessible devices for kids of all ages, and changes in programming. Scott from World Relief Durham mentioned how much needed to change in the past six months and the difficulty of physical distance between staff and clients.  

This pandemic has highlighted the most vulnerable peoples across the country – and they are the populations often most highly impacted by public crises. Lack of high-speed internet, parents/guardians that do not understand their child’s schoolwork, and unreliable access to devices can negatively affect children’s schooling in the U.S. Unfortunately, many refugee children –such as those in Lydia’s program – experience at least one of these barriers, and the pandemic only increases the pressure on those elements due to the need of social distancing.

So many in the country are focused on schools reopening (or not reopening) as it creeps closer to Fall. Guardians and schools need to figure out childcare, safety, expenses, and more… but refugee families can so easily be left behind in the chaos. The interviews this past week, however, gave me hope that there are organizations and individuals who continue to strive with all their resources to support the refugee families in this next phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.